This weekend at the movies, we’ve got a persuasive PSA against the dangers of touching alien goo (Venom, starring Tom Hardy and Riz Ahmed) and a celestial body reincarnated (A Star Is Born, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga). What are the critics saying?
Filmmakers are always faced with a tricky balance when attempting to adapt comics properties — the reason these characters make such appealing targets for adaptations is that they’re well known to a built-in fanbase, but the source material is tough to film without taking into account decades of increasingly complex stories. That’s a big bugaboo with Venom, which seeks to bring a wildly popular Spider-Man anti-hero to the big screen without tackling wide swaths of his (admittedly quite weird) origin story — or even involving the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler at all. That isn’t impossible, but it’s definitely difficult, and unfortunately, critics say the folks behind this movie weren’t up to the task. Starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, the down-on-his-luck journalist who finds himself unwillingly bonded with the titular bloodthirsty alien symbiote, Venom struggles to nail down its world-building elements while maintaining a tough tonal balance. It’s one part split personality comedy, one part brutal action thriller, and one part would-be superhero franchise starter — and unsurprisingly, reviews describe it as pretty much a complete mess. Fans of the character have been waiting years to see him get his proper cinematic due, but most of them will likely be left wanting after this.
Last week’s updated Little Women didn’t exactly strike a chord with critics, but the pundits don’t always reject new versions of repeatedly remade movies. For our latest evidence, here’s A Star Is Born, which sees debuting director Bradley Cooper behind the lens for the latest take on a tale that first arrived in theaters in 1937 — and again in 1954, then yet again in 1976. You’d think there probably wouldn’t be much left to bring to the story, but this update proves that assumption delightfully wrong: critics say Cooper proves a deft hand in the director’s chair, and his chemistry opposite Gaga — whose own performance has prompted a chorus of cries echoing the film’s title — is more than enough to sell their characters’ Star-crossed romance all by itself. This project languished in development hell for years, but the extra time hasn’t hurt at all; reviews say the story of a struggling singer (Gaga) who falls in with a recording artist battling personal demons (Cooper) remains effortlessly absorbing in the right hands, and it’s in some excellent ones here. Expect to see a lot of sniffling patrons streaming out of A Star Is Born screenings this weekend — and don’t be surprised if this movie ends up being a big part of the conversation come awards season.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release